Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is the third game in the Theatrhyhtm Final Fantasy spin-off that places the merry melodies of the franchise into a rhythm game combined with a number of traditional RPG elements.
With Final Fantasy’s immense library of music tracks, a rhythm game served as a great idea but Final Bar Line pushes the concept even further, with addicting gameplay, customizable characters, and a collection of other goodies. It makes for a spectacular final crescendo for the series’ 35th Anniversary.
The Main Modes
There are two main single-player modes in Theatrythm Final Bar Line: Series Quests, and Music Stages. The Series Quests are the main campaign where you progress through the tracks of each Final Fantasy game to unlock songs and characters. This makes for a nice trip down memory lane reliving the most memorable boss battles and dungeons from each title. Playing this mode also unlocks the songs and characters for the Music Stages so it’s important to start here.
Music Stages is where you can replay any song you’ve unlocked in order to get a better score. This mode is your usual rhythm game-free mode where you can play any songs from across each game. There’s even an option to choose from three different kinds of difficulty styles. After a while, you’ll probably find yourself spending more time here going back to your favorite tunes.
Speaking of the tunes, the game has an amazing selection of Final Fantasy tracks, with music representing each numbered entry plus many of the spin-offs with over 385 tracks, the largest in the series so far. This is a great number but even then I have noticed a couple of big-name songs from the series like ‘Eyes on Me’ or ‘Melodies of Life’ have been locked behind the digital deluxe edition, essentially as DLC. I know there are already a hundred good songs in the game but it feels a little wrong that some of the most iconic songs in the franchise aren’t in the base game. The tracklist just doesn’t feel complete without them.
The Active-Time Music System
The gameplay loop of Threatrhythym is pretty simple, you play through one of the many songs from the Final Fantasy series, orbs will float across the screen and you have to press the button or direction in time with the music as they fly into your crosshairs. There are three main varieties, regular orbs, orbs that require flicking the analog stick in the right direction, and orbs that require you to hold the button for a certain amount of time.
Holding the button you be a pain at times since certain maps will require you to move the held-down orb across a track with the analog stick. Back on the 3DS, this was down with the touchpad so moving to the regular controller can feel a little stiff and imprecise at first. Thankfully with a little practice, you do get used to it and it started feeling more natural to manage the speed of each movement.
What’s more interesting however is that the game isn’t just about getting through the levels. While you play the song, your characters will be battling enemies and the better you perform, the more damage you deal, killing off enemies who’ll be replaced with stronger foes including big-name Final villains. How do you deal more damage? That’s where the RPG elements come in.
An RPG Rhythm Game
One thing you learn about Final Fantasy spin-offs is that they’ll try to put RPG elements in anything, whether it’s a fighting game, racing game, or rhythm game, turning the songs into RPG encounters. These come in the form of leveling up your characters and equipping them with spells, items, and summons.
Leveling up your units not only gives them stronger stats but you’ll also gain access to useful skills which are very beneficial to get better rewards and scores. Besides that, using the summons is just as addicting as it is in the mainline games, allowing a powerful godlike being to come in and really rack up the damage for you. Overall the RPG elements add a whole other layer of complexity to the game that’ll leave you managing the menus to create the perfect team, creating the same sense of satisfaction you’d get from doing so in a numbered title.
Equipping Your Time
Each party consists of four characters and you need to be selective when choosing which characters to use. The different characters will specialize in different roles like DPS, Healer, Tank, and Magic. This means that as fun as it sounds making your own dream team that only consists of the series protagonists like Lightning, Cloud, Terra, or Noctis might not be the best idea, since they are mostly pure DPS. Like in traditional RPGs, You’ll need tanks to keep your team from getting too many hits, and healers to bring your single health bar back up.
Switching between parties is also important because each stage has different enemies with specific weaknesses that you need counter, but even if you want to use the same party, it’s still fairly doable to clear the stages, and although your score won’t be as high.
In general, the game is very generous with the difficulty, allowing you to easily clear even with a large number of misses. You can however crank up the challenge to the higher modes if you want something a little harder with faster and more frequent inputs. This still doesn’t affect the RPG elements much but it is a rhythm game first and foremost so it makes sense for the music to be the main focus.
Finally, there’s Multi Battle which is the multiplayer portion of the game. This works fairly simply, you choose a song (or just pick the random option) and compete with another player to see who can play through it with a higher score.
I didn’t get to play much because it’s the lair of expert players that already played the game for at least 40 – 50 hours, but as far as matchmaking goes, it’s not bad and I can still join any room made by other players fairly quickly.
Be warned that it is very skill-based, not only emphasizing your skill in keeping to the beat, but also the start of your party. Even if all the players in the room manage to get a Perfect Chain, it’s the person with the strongest party members that will get the best score since they’ll be the one dealing the most damage. Getting the top score also means you can get the best rewards, It’s a pretty competitive experience but I appreciate the amount of skill and preparation that involves.
If you want a great from all the battles and music, you can take a peek into the game’s various collectibles. The Museum Menu gives you access to all sorts of digital goodies that you collect through playing the Series Quests such as CollectaCards, movies, songs, and more. CollectaCards are particularly important because they can raise the stats of each character which automatically makes them stronger.
My favorite part of the collectibles is easily the Music Player which is the easiest way for you to enjoy the 400 songs in the game. It’s basically like owning your own little dream library of Final Fantasy and Square Enix music with useful features such as repeating the same song or customizing your own playlist. I can certainly see some people getting the game just for the music alone.
Final Bar Line
Theatrhythm Final Bar Line is the perfect way to end The Final Fantasy 35th Anniversary. It’s a game that really celebrates everything Final Fantasy is. It represents every mainline Final Fantasy game, plus some of the spin-offs, and highlights brilliant music that inhabits each one of them. Yes, it’d be better if certain tracks weren’t hidden behind DLC but with so many tracks to choose from, it’s not like the base game has a bad selection.
The RPG elements add a great level of replayability and depth to the gameplay, giving you many options to boost your score even higher, not to mention continuing FF’s great tradition of placing RPG elements on different genres. And this isn’t even going into the other collectibles you can find to learn more about the series in all its ups and downs.
Overall, this is a brilliant rhythm game and a loving homage to all things Final Fantasy, reminding us that the Final Fantasy series will always have another encore.
A review code was provided by the publisher and the game was reviewed on the PS4.
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Theatrhythm Final Bar Line
- Addicting rhythm gameplay with unique RPG elements
- Very replayable, especially for hardcore players in Multi Battle
- Tons of content to enjoy and collect
- Some are the best FF songs are hidden away as DLC